The Giants are throwing a 10-year anniversary bash for one of the most remarkable teams in franchise history, the 2007 squad that stunned the previously unbeaten Patriots and captured a third Lombardi Trophy.
But there will be one noteworthy absence from the halftime celebration for Monday night’s matchup against the Lions at MetLife Stadium.
Eli Manning, the central figure in the Giants’ colossal upset, will be in the locker room while his teammates from that magical win are introduced to the sellout crowd.
It will be a time warp of sorts for Manning, who somehow escaped pressure and got off a pass to David Tyree — who pinned the ball to the side of his helmet in a remarkable play — during a legendary touchdown drive in the final moments. While former teammates including Tyree, Plaxico Burress, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Antonio Pierce and so many others will be looking back on that incredible season, Manning will tune out the festivities in hopes of getting his 2017 Giants back in position for another championship run.
“I’ll be getting adjustments,” Manning said about his plans during the ceremony. “Obviously, I know what’s going on. My mindset is on Detroit and getting a win right now.”
There will be another time to celebrate the 2007 season, which helped cement his legacy as one of the Giants’ all-time greats and a potential Hall of Famer.
“I’ll be there for the 25th anniversary,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be playing that long.”
Someone jokingly asked if Manning expects to play another 14 years and thus be retired in time for the silver anniversary celebration.
“Maybe,” he said. “Maximum.”
In 14 years, Manning will be 50 years old, so no, he’ll be able to make that one for sure.
In the meantime, there is much work to be done to settle down his current team after a dispiriting 19-3 loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 10. It was a performance that did little to assuage concerns about the Giants’ offense, concerns that were created in the second half of last season, when they couldn’t summon as much as 20 points in a single game.
Manning was under duress for much of the game behind an offensive line that couldn’t contend with a Cowboys attack that certainly was no match for the “Doomsday Defense” of yesteryear but decimated the Giants on this night. With poor pass protection, a feeble running game and a game plan that stressed dink-and-dunk and not down-the-field passing, Manning couldn’t generate much of anything the entire game.
“Man, we were awful in the first half, and by awful, I mean we didn’t have the ball,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “We had so many self-inflicted wounds. We had five third downs. You’re 0-5. Of those five third downs, four of them were five yards or less, and so you’re not out there. You don’t get into that rhythm. We dug ourselves a hole.”
Manning clearly was limited by the absence of injured All-Pro receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who hopes to return from a sprained ankle Monday night. But Beckham’s presence alone won’t be a cure-all for the offense unless Manning can establish the kind of rhythm and ability that has made him one of the league’s best clutch performers.
“There’s no hiding the fact he’s a playmaker, our best player. It’s pretty obvious,” Manning said of Beckham. “I think everybody knows that. It’s different when he’s on the field. But [whether he’s] on there or not, we have to play better than what we did, and we can and we will.”
It’s that kind of relentless enthusiasm that makes Manning one of the best leaders in sports, and his ability to rebound from poor performances — his own or those around him — has been a hallmark of his career. But sometimes even the great ones aren’t able to overcome systemic problems that go beyond their own play, so it’s imperative that everyone around him perform at a significantly higher level, particularly after last week’s offensive no-show.
“I think the one thing we realize after reviewing that [Dallas] game is that there were things we didn’t do that stopped us,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. “Give credit to the Cowboys, but there are things we can do to correct the mistakes that will put us in a better position. That gives us hope that we have it in us to turn it around.”
It needs to turn around in a hurry. Even if the Giants aren’t in the must-win atmosphere of November and December, another failure here will put them at a massive early-season disadvantage. If they’re 0-2 heading into Philadelphia for the Eagles’ home opener next week, an already slippery slope might turn into a September swoon.
Manning got his 2007 team out of an 0-2 hole and finished the season raising the Lombardi Trophy. But his best years are behind him, and expecting him to do it again would be asking too much.
So no celebrating any anniversaries for Manning on this night. There’s too much on the line looking forward to spend any time looking back.